Bicycle Network: Behaviour
Fast facts on bike safety
What to say when someone at the table says, "I wouldn't ride because it's much more dangerous than driving"
It's a common perception that riding a bike is dangerous. But is it really? Almost anything carries an element of risk but, from crossing the road to oxy-welding, we follow basic principles to keep ourselves safe - look left and right, use a welding mask.
Cycling is no different. The key is for people to ride within their limits and within the law.
The facts - safety in numbers
When it comes to danger, it's worth comparing riding a bike with other activities. US company Exponent, which analyses accident data, has compared the number of fatalities associated with various activities in terms of exposure to the activity.
While the number of bicycling fatalities per million exposure hours was 0.26, the number of motoring fatalities was 0.47. By way of comparison, swimming recorded 1.07, and scuba diving, 1.98.
According to the Transport Accident Commission, motorists account for far more fatalities per year than any other road-user. In 2003 in Victoria, 246 drivers and passengers were fatally injured in road accidents, compared to just four cyclists.
Not riding a bike could even be more dangerous than riding one. According to Associate Professor Harry Owen from Flinders University's School of Medicine, a sedentary car-based lifestyle is far more likely to kill you than going out for a bike ride. A lack of physical activity is the most prevalent risk factor for heart disease, which kills one person in Australia every 10 minutes. A 15-year Danish study found cycling for an average of three hours per week decreases mortality by 40%.
A new study published in the April 2005 issue of the Health Promotion Journal of Australia has found that the more pedestrians and cyclists who share the roads with motorists, the more likely they are to arrive at their destination safely, supportung the concept of 'safety in numbers'.
Guiding safety principles
1. Bike Maintenance
For safe riding, a well-maintained bike is paramount - just as an unroadworthy car is potentially unsafe, so is an unroadworthy bike. Visible clothing, reflectors and lights are essential, and good protective gear (helmet, gloves etc) minimise the risk of injury, should anything go wrong.
2. Practice riding techniques
It's easy to forget that riding safely is a learned behaviour, just as driving safely is. Learning techniques for riding in traffic and practising bike handling skills dramatically improve safety.
3. Know your route
Another point that often escapes attention is that the best cycling route is not necessarily the route you would drive. In Victoria, on and off-road facilities for cyclists are improving all the time, so it's easy to choose a route that matches your ability.'
Riding to work and the responsibilities of employeers
In the past some employers who have installed bicycle facilities in their workplace (such as bike parking, showers, lockers, etc.) have been concerned that they could be held accountable if one of their staff members were injured during their passage to or from work. According to Workcover, employers are liable for injuries to staff caused during the period recognised as working hours. This does not include commuting to and from work.
Workcover has provided us with this reference from their claims manual:
"To satisfy the agent that an injury occurred in the course of employment, the injury must have occurred during the period recognised as working hours, or have occurred during a further period encompassing some activity which the employer allowed, encouraged or was reasonably incidental to the employment, and not have occurred whilst the worker was doing something for their own purposes without the knowledge or consent of the worker." 5.2.5 VWA Online Claims Manual
Please refer to VWA Online Claims Manual for more detail or contact the Victorian WorkCover Authority (03) 9641 1555.